By Kimberly Knox
I never imagined that I would be a year and a half post-transplant at 38 years old. Life has a funny way of twisting and turning on you. In my family we usually worried about my 16-year- old daughter, who has cystic fibrosis. My 20-year-old son and my husband, Bill, are reasonably healthy. But at 36 years old, I suddenly became short of breath. I had chest X-ray’s, blood tests and it was determined I needed a single lung transplant. I was diagnosed with Scleroderma, a disease that can affect the kidneys, heart, stomach, esophagus and sometimes lung. I am the only family member with this disease. It is an arthritic disease similar to lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. I was on supplemental oxygen for nine months prior to my single lung transplant. I was petrified on the oxygen and struggling for breath. I was afraid to move because it felt like I could not get any air into my lungs when I tried. I was transplanted in September of 1997 at University Hospital in Denver. My donor was a 19-year-old boy from Buffalo.
Kimberly Knox in the center with her daughter, Jamie, to her right and her sister, Lori, to her left I have had few problems post-transplant. The most interesting problem was pseudo-rejection, caused by a vitamin pill stuck in my airway. Mostly I have just had colds and other little problems. My breathing is not perfect, but the quality of my life is improved, and I am very grateful for this second chance.
I have had the rare opportunity to establish a relationship with my donor family. I met them at Buffalo High School on April 10, 1999. Tony Kirkpatrick, my donor, died of a brain aneurysm, following a workout at a gym. His parents, Donna and Larry, donated all of his organs to seven recipients. They feel that there is a miracle in the act of donation. Now I have a relationship with Tony’s mother, Donna. We are bonded by life and death and our common role as mother and wife. Tony’s family said after they met me that they felt more at peace. We are like best friends. In fact they had lost a daughter at 2 days old at the same hospital where I was transplanted. Tony died in his father’s arms. I am grateful that I am able to help bring them some peace through the gift of life.